On paper, the 2021 Minnesota Lynx are stacked.
Sylvia Fowles was the 2017 WNBA Most Valuable Player. Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield are back-to-back reigning Rookie of the Year winners. Kayla McBride is a three-time WNBA All-Star. Aerial Powers, Natalie Achonwa, and Rachel Banham are veteran household names around the W.
But perhaps the most important cog in propelling the Lynx back into championship contention lies in the continued development of Brazilian stretch-forward Damiris Dantas.
In an increased role for most of the 2020 season without Fowles, Dantas had her best season yet. The São Paulo native averaged a career-high 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. What’s more, she finished the regular season strong, putting up 18 ppg in the final seven games and scored 22 points to lift the Lynx over the Phoenix Mercury in the Second Round of the 2020 WNBA Playoffs.
“We saw with Damiris last year what she means to this team,” Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve told media. “When we didn’t have Syl, her ability to step up — and this is what she does for her National Team, she is their A-player — it was really great to see her see herself, even though we’ve encouraged her to think of herself that way, as an A-player.”
As the game evolves and becomes more perimeter-oriented, Dantas is suited to be that ‘A-player’ for the Lynx. Only five players in the WNBA shot above 40% from three-point range more than 75 attempts last season. Dantas was second among that elite group at 43.3%, and was the only frontcourt player to do it.
“[Reeve]’s talked to me about this,” Dantas says humbly. “She looks at me in the national team, and she say ‘I want you to come here and do same!’ so I need to change. Sometimes it’s hard because I don’t speak English, but I feel better every season. Better, better, better.”
Proof of Dantas’ conquering of the language barrier is evident in the fact that she’s doing many more interviews in English compared to past seasons. Becoming more confident in her communication has amplified her voice on the court as well and built more trust within herself.
“There’s a maturity now about her, a confidence,” Reeve explained. “She’s open, she’s gonna shoot it. We’re running plays for her. I think she understands her place, I think she’s taken a step and I don’t see her going backwards and becoming a deferral type.”
“She talks a lot more!” teammate Rachel Banham said of Dantas. “This is the most I’ve heard her speak, so that’s awesome. Just more of a voice… She’s just been great.”
Off the court, Dantas has made Minnesota home in her second stint with the Lynx. Thousands of miles away from her family in Brazil, the Lynx are her family during her summers in America as she enters her seventh WNBA season.
“The Lynx support me for everything,” she explained to media. “I’m so happy to play for this team. This team supports me for everything. I think about everything they support me [with], and it’s easy to play on the court more comfortably.”